Army connects VSATs to speed up battlefield logistics support


A soldier processes a parts request from GCSS-A.

The Army has for years made use of very small aperture terminals (VSATs) to link with satellites and bring an Internet connection to the battlefield, but a battalion has for the first time connected VSATs to the Global Combat Support Systems-Army, which is designed to combine multiple systems into a single, Web-based system for logistics support.

A maintenance troop made the connection during an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in the process demonstrating how GCSS-A could be brought down to the unit level in a battlefield situation.

"GCSS-Army gives the commander the ability to track logistic deliveries and maintenance scheduling within their unit," Staff Sgt. Don Nottingham, from the Maintenance Troop warehouse, said in a news release. Adding VSAT to the mix provides real-time updates on orders, deliveries and maintenance scheduling, significantly speeding up a process that can take days.

Army very small aperture terminal

A staff sergeant from Maintenance Troop sets up a VSAT.

As Chief Warrant Officer 1 William Evans, head of the communications and electronics shop in Maintenance Troop, VSAT makes "a 90,000 mile journey through millions of dollars of infrastructure and sophisticated equipment, all in less than 700 milliseconds."

VSATs are small satellite terminals that can be quickly set up and, using IP protocols, be used to deliver voice, video and data communications to soldiers in remote areas. The military has employed thousands of them for years.

The GCSS-A, which after seven years of development, combines a suite of logistical information and financial management systems into a single place, which of itself has helped speed up logistics support. Enabling it to work with VSATs further streamlines the operation, cutting down the wait period after placing an order.

"Having the VSAT capabilities improved the supply support activity warehouse, prescribed load list, and shop office operations while in a field training environment," said Staff Sgt. Shelly Warren, the warehouse noncommissioned officer in charge.

Now that it’s been tested in a deployed environment, the Army said units will be able to use VSATs as soon they get GCSS-A implemented.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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